Fostering community-driven research for social and environmental justice
Climate and Environmental Justice Conference
Over 420 faculty and students, community organizers and advocates, policymakers, social ministry leaders, and funders joined us at SCU and online for our Climate and Environmental Justice Conference on April 27-29! Together, we advanced the work of organizing community-university alliances and partnerships to promote climate and environmental justice in Northern California, across Latin America, and throughout Jesuit higher education. We had over 50 presenters, 30 posters, 12 workshops and networking sessions, a Youth Summit, an interfaith dinner, and Ballet Folklórico. We’re grateful for the new ideas, people met, and collaborations imagined.
Did you miss a session? Check the program and watch a recording. Read abstracts from the poster session to learn more about the impressive range of work being done by our faculty, students, community partners, allies and friends.
Some highlights included the powerful opening panel, in which Muwekma Ohlone Vice-Chairwoman Monica V. Arellano shared her tribe’s preservation work and its persistent struggle for Federal recognition. Chairman Val Lopez of the Amah Mutson Tribal Band spoke about the history of violence against California’s native peoples, the recovery and use of Indigenous ecological knowledge, and the creation of the Amah Mutsun Land Trust. He called upon us to reconcile with the past, learn from each other, and heal together. Additional morning panels featured the voices of California community organizers speaking about racial and class dynamics in the struggle for environmental justice. Afternoon panels centered the experiences of youth organizers, and examined water and climate justice in California and Central America, and decolonizing food systems and advancing climate justice in the Americas.
On the next day, the morning panels focused on transforming higher education through community-engaged teaching, research, and networking. Afternoon sessions included a keynote by Fr. Michael Garanzini, President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, who recognized SCU's leadership in community-engaged research and environmental justice, and announced collaborative work across the Jesuit Universities to strengthen and share this work. In a second keynote, Veronica Eady, Senior Deputy Executive Officer of Policy & Equity for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, offered inspiration and advice for advancing the environmental justice movement within government.
Thanks to the Association of Jesuit Universities and Colleges for co-sponsoring the conference, to our Premier Partner, SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, and to our many additional sponsors and endorsers.
Summer Workshops on Sustainability and Justice
This summer, the Initiative’s Chad Raphael will collaborate with SCU’s Center for Sustainability to teach three professional development workshops to almost 80 faculty members and sustainability staff from SCU, Jesuit institutions, and other colleges and universities. The workshops will focus on integrating sustainability and justice across the curriculum, how to teach about environmental justice and integral ecology, and using active pedagogy, such as community-engaged research and learning. SCU is building on its reputation as a national training center for sustainability across the curriculum affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). While applications have closed for this summer, consider joining us in summer 2024.
New Teaching Statements on EJ for People with Disabilities and Latinx
The Initiative has published several teaching statements about the connections between environmental justice and related forms of justice for specific communities. These statements are intended to guide our own actions, and as teaching and action resources for others. Filled with links to a wide range of resources, the statements are useful introductions to how people can learn about, support, and engage directly in advancing justice for a variety of EJ communities. Adding to our initial statements about environmental and racial justice for Black and Asian Americans, we published two new statements this winter, written by our colleagues. Assistant Professor Molly M. King and student Emily Pachoud co-authored a statement on EJ for people with disabilities. Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies Jesica S. Fernández, and students Jadzaí Solis and Sarahi E. Salamanca, published a statement on environmental justice for Latinx communities. New statements are in the works about EJ for workers and for Indigenous peoples.
Chris Bacon and Chad Raphael Named to AJCU’s Laudato Sí Commission
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) recently launched six commissions as they plan for the AJCU Justice Assembly to be held in Chicago on July 16-19, 2024. The goal is to develop bold proposals for change during challenging times. Fr. Michael Garanzini SJ, AJCU President and EJ&CGI Advisory Board member, named the Initiative's Chris Bacon and Michael Schuck of Loyola University Chicago as co-chairs of the Laudato Sí: Advancing a Shared Agenda for our Common Home Commission. Chad Raphael will also serve on the commission, which will include 24 members from 14 universities. The Commission has started work toward developing transformative proposals for how Jesuit higher education can elevate its response to the world's ecological crisis in alignment with Pope Francis' vision in Laudato Sí and his 7-Year Journey Towards Integral Ecology, staring with an inaugural meeting at SCU’s Climate and Environmental Justice Conference. Please send your ideas for collective action to firstname.lastname@example.org, and stay tuned for updates.
In Our Research
Analysis of U.S. EPA’s Efforts to Address Environmental Racism
Tseming Yang’s article, “Old and New Environmental Racism", was accepted for publication in Utah Law Review. Yang argues that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved from purposeful disregard of environmental racism to a public embrace of environmental justice as an organizational priority, but EPA’s efforts remain a work-in-progress. Yang posits that the EPA’s effective adoption of a color-blind approach to environmental justice has created three serious blind spots in the Agency’s civil rights enforcement program. First, EPA has extended unwarranted trust with regard to compliance, even in instances of repeated discrimination complaints. Second, its superficial (albeit earnest) reviews of discriminatory effect allegations with respect to pollution risks has ignored the harms that even small increments of pollution risks can pose to minority communities. And third, its commitment to scientific analysis has allowed science to become a shield against social justice concerns and compounded environmental harms to minority communities. Addressing these blind spots requires short-term policy fixes, and long-term structural and cultural changes, at EPA.
Part of the research team during a visit from Nicaraguan Partner Raul Diaz of CII-ASDENIC
New Central American Climate Change App
The Initiative’s Iris Stewart-Frey and Ed Maurer, along with Allan Baez-Morales (SCU Frugal Innovation Hub) and 5 student researchers, released a beta-version of their mobile phone application called NicaAgua for their partner organization in Nicaragua, CII-ASDENIC. Using human-centric design and frugal innovation principles, the app enables local users to upload and share timely data of local weather stations, broadcasts warnings and information on extreme weather events, and illustrates and interprets climatic changes. The app aims to support farmers’ and communities’ decision making processes about how to manage crops and water resources, and to develop locally-adapted adaptation and mitigation strategies. The research team, along with Qiuwen Li (SCU Art & Art History), recently received a Whitham Family Collaborative Scholarship Award to support further development and uses for the app. This next phase will involve conducting climate change research in Central America and making the results accessible to the smallholder farming communities most affected by climate impacts. The new funding will allow the team to extend their research on climate forecasting skills and local climate impacts, improve the functionality of the app in response to farmer feedback, create graphical and artistic representations of the data following human-centric principles for the app and other materials, and use surveys and focus groups to assess the role of accessible climate forecasts in developing climate change mitigation strategies.
New Central Valley Groundwater Maps
Iris Stewart-Frey and community partner, the California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), released a set of new interactive maps showing nitrate contamination in the Modesto area and additional contaminants across California. The maps can be used to support advocacy for the human right to safe and clean water in California’s Central Valley. They allow users to view information on groundwater contaminants, dry wells, and data used by state programs to determine priority areas for remediation altogether and in relation to disadvantaged communities. Although the data in the maps is available individually from different water agencies, other portals do not let stakeholders view the different data layers together or at this fine scale.
Grant Supports Water Justice Research in Central Valley
Iris Stewart-Frey and community partners at the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) received a $100,000 grant from the Windward Fund to advance the human right to water in disadvantaged, rural California communities. The goal of this project is to increase access to safe drinking water in California’s Central Valley by collecting and analyzing data that will increase CRLA’s capacity to advocate for safe, sufficient water and ultimately policy change. In addition, the project will build capacity for community-based data collection and spatial data analysis and visualization through the work of a Water Justice Science Fellow and SCU undergraduate student researchers.
New Article on Gender and Food Security among Nicaraguan Coffee Farmers
Chris Bacon, María Eugenia Flores Gómez, and five student co-authors published an article in Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, analyzing how diversification relates to food security. The team partnered with PRODECOOP, a co-op of 2000 organic and fair trade farmers, to conduct a participatory mixed methods study, including 171 surveys and 50 interviews. The research found that crop diversity correlated with household dietary diversity, and that average male-owned farms were 1.8 ha larger than women-owned farms. Suggested strategic actions included supporting female land ownership, farmer-led experimentation, and more training for men on gender, for women on diversification, and for all participants in feminist agroecology. Student co-authors included Vanessa Shin (Environmental Science '19), now at Peninsula Clean Energy; Gabi Ballardo (Environmental Studies and Italian Studies '21), now an M.S. candidate in environmental policy at Duke University; Skyler Kriese (Environmental Studies '20), now an M.S. candidate in Environmental Justice at University of Michigan and an Environmental Fellow at Yale University; Emma McCurry (Bioengineering '21), now an M.S. candidate in Education at Oregon State, high school student teacher in chemistry; and Erica Martinez (Biology, Public Health Science, and Spanish Studies '20), now a researcher at Stanford’s Food Equity Lab.
In Our Courses
Environmental Studies and Sciences Senior Capstone Projects
Chris Bacon and Iris Stewart-Frey, and their colleague Jake Dialesandro, held the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences’s annual senior capstone research poster presentation. Throughout the year, student groups worked on a project identified by community partners, integrating what they have learned in their major, and using a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods. At the poster session, students presented and discussed their results with the ESS faculty, their partners from community-based groups and government agencies, and their peers. This year, 46 seniors in 11 teams collaborated with community partners to investigate topics ranging from urban reforestation, stormwater flood mitigation, impacts of state policies to manage groundwater on disadvantaged communities, to student food security at SCU, maximizing sustainability in campus operations, and much more.
Students in the winter section of Chad Raphael’s environmental communication course researched and developed communication materials for two campus clients. For SCU’s Center for Sustainability, student teams designed campaigns to conserve water and energy by removing unneeded campus lawns, to recruit mentors for sustainability careers, and to explain why Jesuit and other institutions are divesting from fossil fuels (and why SCU could too). For the Initiative, teams created social media materials promoting our spring conference, video profiles of student researchers, and teaching statements about how to advance environmental justice for workers (focusing on occupational safety and health issues) and Indigenous peoples.
Image: Fossil Free SCU / ENACT
Environmental Consciousness toward Justice in Science Classrooms: A Reflective Case Study of a Teacher Educator and a Teacher as Learners
Won Jung Kim (Education Department) presented research supported by a grant from the Initiative and conducted in partnership with Lisa Archuleta (Education, ‘23) at the 2023 National Association of Research in Science Teaching conference in Chicago, IL. Their presentation captured one case of the research-practice partnership Dr. Kim has established with six teachers, who are all graduate students in SCU’s Master of Art in Teaching and Teaching Credential program. The presented work reported a case that took place in the context of Lisa’s science classes in 2022. Won and Lisa, in collaboration with Lisa’s students, designed, implemented, and reflected on environmental consciousness toward justice science units on the topic of overconsumption. The researchers identified two core themes of classroom discourse toward justice: pedagogical obligations to support students’ use of science practices toward distributive and transformational environmental justice; and students’ rights to be recognized for and participate in the exposure and examination of environmental injustices. Building upon this case of co-creating and enacting the unit, the team expanded its work this year to support Lisa’s Sacred Heart Nativity School students’ independent community ethnographies, which identified and investigated environmental and social justice issues in students’ local communities. The students also presented their research at SCU’s Guadalupe Hall to their parents and faculty of SCU’s Education Department.
New Round of Environmental Justice Research Grants with Miller Center
The Initiative announced our newest research grant recipients in collaboration with SCU’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Our call for research proposals invited faculty to apply for grants to conduct research on environmental justice, especially research involving a community-engaged approach. Miller Center joined us in selecting and co-funding projects that advance environmental justice and have the potential to promote social impact innovation. The research projects will advance Santa Clara University’s vision to create a more humane, just, and sustainable world, while promoting Miller Center’s mission to eradicate global poverty and protect the planet, and the Initiative’s mission to foster community-driven research for social and environmental justice.
We supported four grant recipients. Jesica Siham Fernández (Ethnic Studies) will launch the next phase of The Youth for Justice Project: Fostering Sociopolitical Development for Environmental Justice Action with students at a Jesuit middle school in downtown San José. Jes Kuczenski (Engineering) & Allan Báez Morales (Frugal Innovation Hub) will leverage their connections to local community gardens and urban farms to help fight food insecurity and foster engineering students’ research on the nitrogen cycle’s role in food production in their project, Nurturing the Future: Engineering Students Tackle Food Insecurity through Community Gardening. Leslie Gray (Environmental Studies and Sciences) & Michael Kevane (Economics) will conduct exploratory research and seek community partners for their project on Gendered Adaptation to Climate Change in Tanzania. Chan Thai (Communication) will build on her collaboration with Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc. to understand how access to water affects health and economic wellbeing in remote villages in their project, Water Transforms Life: Interviews with Community Members in Negros Occidental, Philippines.
Lee Panich (SCU Anthropology), one of the Initiative’s Advisory Board members, has developed a long-term working relationship with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, on whose ancestral lands SCU sits. With Amy Lueck, Panich co-leads SCU’s Community Heritage Lab, which facilitates research, teaching, dialog, collaboration, and engagement between scholars, heritage professionals, and students on the SCU campus, as well as with the broader community of stakeholders from the surrounding region. With SCU’s de Saisset Museum, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Center for Arts & Humanities, Panich recently co-organized SCU’s Inaugural Native American Symposium, on the Challenges of the Federal Recognition Process, which convened scholars and Muwekma Ohlone leaders to address the barriers and potential paths forward in the tribe’s quest for federal recognition.
In addition, Panich, along with Lueck (English) and Kai Lukoff (Computer Science & Engineering), recently received a Whitham Family Foundation grant for their project, The Ohlone Augmented Reality Campus Tour. Building on their web-based SCU Native History Tour, the research team is creating an augmented reality (AR) tour of the Santa Clara University campus that tells the story of the Ohlone, who have stewarded this land for hundreds of years. The AR tour allows people to visit about 20 stops on the campus, hold up their phone, and encounter the past, present, and future of the Ohlone in new and provocative ways. For example, a tour participant might walk around a life-size 3D model of traditional dwellings prior to colonization or see the tribal flag superimposed atop a flagpole on the campus. This self-guided augmented reality tour has the potential to reach the campus and tribal community and the many visitors (including thousands of school children) who visit the university campus each year. This project brings together faculty and students from Computer Science, Anthropology, and English with Native community partners. The team will use the learnings from this process to create “The AR Toolkit for Social Justice Tours,” a guide and set of resources that empowers educators and storytellers around the world to create alternative tours that challenge traditional narratives.
Farmer- to-Farmer Learning Exchange on Agroecology Innovation and Productive Diversification in Nicaragua
Farmers affiliated with the COOSMPROJIN cooperative and non-affiliated families shared two days of exchange in the field and classroom in northern Nicaragua. The activities included farm tours, reflections on entrepreneurship and promotion of agroecology and productive diversification, protected agriculture, innovation in crops such as grapes, markets and resilience. In the classroom, farmers gave feedback on preliminary research results and planned the next steps in the framework of the study “Learning Resilience while Responding to Environmental and Economic Hazards” conducted in collaboration with small-scale farmers in Nicaragua. This event was coordinated with CII-ASDENIC, COOSMPROJIN, Condega city’s major office and SCU faculty and staff including the Initiative's Christopher Bacon and Maria Eugenia Flores, as well as Bill Sundstrom (Economics).
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